Less than two weeks remain in the 2016 soccer season, so there is very little time and opportunity left for teams to make their final cases for positioning in the Shore Sports Network Top 10. The top two spots in the rankings are basically settled, but there remain enough suitors for spots three through five for the last 13 days of the season to remain intense.

1. Christian Brothers Academy (21-1, 13-1) Last Week: 1

The Colts are the overwhelming favorite to come out of the South Jersey Non-Public A bracket, but give St. John Vianney credit for getting to the second half against CBA in a scoreless deadlock. CBA ultimately beat the Lancers for the fourth year in a row in the state playoffs, but the scoreless 40 minutes was a reminder that the Colts still have the bulls-eye on their collective back and that does make life a little tougher.

2. Marlboro (19-2-1, 12-1-1) Last Week: 2

On the surface, last week’s overtime wins in the state tournament following an SCT final loss to CBA were a little troubling because Marlboro squandered two-goal leads in both games. Considering the circumstances, however, those were two major character wins for the Mustangs, who played with heavy hearts during the week in the wake of the passing of senior P.J. Ringel’s father.

3. Freehold Township (12-7-1, 8-5-1) Last Week: 4

The Patriots’ season came to an end with a lopsided 5-0 loss to Hunterdon Central, the No. 1 seed in the Central Jersey Group IV playoffs, in Thursday’s sectional quarterfinals. Despite the loss, the Patriots had a fine season considering they entered the year trying to replace 14 seniors from the 2015 roster and do so under a first-year head coach. The graduation of Adrian Barajas will be a big loss, but Freehold Township has a young core returning off of this year’s trip to the SCT semifinals.

4. Toms River North (14-6, 11-3) Last Week: 8

With their run to the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals, the Mariners vault into the top-five as the season draws to a close. Toms River North lost to No. 2 Williamstown in the quarterfinals of the always-difficult South Jersey Group IV bracket and finished second in the Class A South standings, but land higher than Toms River South in the rankings for the time being. In games against common opponents, Toms River South was 12-2-1 while Toms River North was 13-3, so factoring in the deep SCT run, the Mariners have a strong case to be ranked ahead of their crosstown rivals.

5. Middletown North (13-4-2, 11-3-0) Last Week: 3

The Lions were overmatched against Marlboro, but in their defense, they played without junior Liam McGregor, who is one of the team’s top offensive threats. Middletown North has been the best B North team over the course of the year and the Lions are one home win away from playing in a sectional final.

6. Matawan (13-3-3, 7-2-3) Last Week: 5

The Huskies still have a chance to land a top-five spot to end the season if they can win a competitive Central Jersey Group II bracket. An SCT loss to CBA is no reason to knock Matawan down all that far and the Huskies can make up for it by earning a shot at Delran – the current No. 1 team in N.J. – in a potential Group II semifinal.

7. Toms River South (14-3-2, 12-1-1) Last Week: 7

While the Indians are currently behind rival Toms River North in the rankings despite winning the A South title, they have a chance to climb since they are still playing in the NJSIAA Tournament. The only problem is the Central Jersey III bracket does not look strong at the moment, so in order to make a serious move up the rankings, the Indians may have to find themselves in the Group III final again this year.

8. Point Pleasant Boro (18-3, 13-1) Last Week: 6

A 4-1 loss to Toms River South in a tune-up game between the Shore Conference and NJSIAA Tournaments has to keep the Panthers at No. 8, but they have a chance to make that a throwaway result by winning the South Jersey Group II title. That would likely require beating No. 1 Delran.

9. Colts Neck (9-9, 7-7) Last Week: Not ranked

Class A North has proven to be leaps and bounds better than any other division in the Shore Conference and the five A North teams that have had strong years should be mentioned in the top 10. Colts Neck left some results on the table and finished the year an even .500, but considering six of their nine losses came against Marlboro and CBA, that’s not all that bad. They also split the series with No. 3 Freehold Township and beat red-hot Manalapan twice.

Photo by Larry Murphy.

10. Manalapan (11-8-2, 6-8-0) Last Week: Not ranked

A North was so good this year that Manalapan could not qualify for the Shore Conference Tournament while playing in the division but is now in the top 10 on the heels of a big state tournament run. The Braves won a penalty-kick shootout against Princeton – the No. 2 seed in the Central Group IV bracket and a one-loss team – and followed up that upset with a win at Old Bridge. If the Braves don’t win another game, it will be because they lost to another A North team on Monday in Marlboro.


Dropped Out

Pinelands (16-5, 12-2) Last Week: 9 – Although there will be some lamenting over what could have been this year had Matt O’Connell stayed healthy, the Wildcats have a solid group coming back next year.

Jackson Memorial (11-9-1, 7-7-0) Last Week: 10 – The Jaguars could not muster the same magic in the South Jersey Group IV bracket that they did in the Shore Conference Tournament.


Still In It

Wall (14-5-3, 9-2-3) – Monday’s game at Toms River South will basically be for a spot in the top 10, not to mention for a chance to host the Central Jersey Group III final.

Central (13-5-2, 9-4-1) – The Golden Eagles have been tough to score on, which makes them dangerous as long as they are still playing in the South Jersey Group III field.

Holmdel (9-6-3, 6-5-1) – As usual, Holmdel is in the mix for a sectional title heading into the sectional semifinals after the Hornets took out top-seeded South Plainfield in Central Jersey Group II.

Asbury Park (16-3-1, 12-0-0) – The Blue Bishops are one win away from hosting the Central Jersey Group I final, which would be a remarkable moment for the program, regardless of the outcome.


Honorable Mention

Raritan (13-3-4, 7-2-3) – The Rockets won a Class A Central championship, lost in a shootout in the SCT first round and faced a rough draw in the Central Jersey Group II playoffs.

Ocean (14-5, 11-3) – The Spartans won a share of Class B North and beat Asbury Park, but lost matches to Wall and Middletown North that could have clinched the outright B North title and went 1-2 in tournament matches.